New World First Bus

Confusion over the fate of '$500m' staff quarters in North Point as new company

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 September, 1998, 12:00am

The future of a multimillion-dollar prime residential site leased to China Motor Bus was in doubt after the bus handover last night.

The premises, occupying 17,861 square feet, at the junction of Java Road, Kam Hong Street and Marble Road, North Point, were once used to house more than 200 CMB staff and their families.

Yesterday, only seven families were left in the quarters, which comprise three six-storey housing blocks, a courtyard and hall. Many of them were busy packing their belongings.

The value of the site has been estimated by a property agent to be in the $400 million to $500 million range.

The Buildings Department issued a repair order to the landlord in March after broken pipes, falling fragments and cracks on the walls were detected.

The land was sold for $270,000 to CMB on a 75-year lease in 1954 for staff quarters only. Any change to the original use has to be approved.

But the Lands and Buildings departments have yet to receive any application from the owner and the quarters are now accommodating New World First Bus staff only.

Michael Choi Ngai-min, managing director of Hong Kong Property, said the location could be an attractive residential site which would sell at about $4,500 to $5,000 per square foot. 'Higher floors would have a sea view as it only had the North Point Estate in front of it. It is also close to an MTR station, the Eastern Corridor, Eastern Harbour Crossing and the pier.' Bus inspector Yeung Bo, 55, who worked for CMB for more than 30 years and had lived in the quarters for more than 20, said: 'Our children all grew up and played together as we all knew each other. The atmosphere was very good especially during festivals. To be successfully allocated a unit in the staff quarters was like hitting the Mark Six jackpot,' the father of two said.

Mr Yeung is paying a nominal rent of $200 per month at present compared to $40 when he first moved in.

But Mr Yeung said communal fights were common as each family only occupied a flat measuring 110 square feet no matter how many members each family had, and had to share a kitchen and bathroom with the family next door.

But people had been moving out in recent years as children grew up, he said.

Mr Yeung's family is one of the seven left in the quarters and he received a letter last month telling them they had to move out by yesterday.

'I hope CMB will allow us to stay longer as some neighbours have yet to find an alternative home.' CMB was unavailable for comment yesterday on the future of the property.